South Dakota Businesses Invest In Housing For Rural Communities

Jul 16, 2020

East River Electric Power Cooperative CEO Tom Boyko speaks at SDN Communications in Sioux Falls on Wednesday, July 15. SDN Communications, Avera Health and First Bank and Trust have all pledged millions of dollars for the housing initiative in rural South Dakota.
Credit John Nguyen

A new initiative between several South Dakota businesses is trying to provide housing for rural communities in the state.

The goal is to attract and retain South Dakotans and spur economic growth.

SDN Communications, Avera Health and First Bank and Trust are working together to fund a housing-development initiative.

The effort is spearheaded by East River Electric Power Cooperative.

Tom Boyko is CEO of the co-op and said there’s a lack of housing in rural South Dakota.

“You have to have the people to run the businesses out in the rural areas,” he said. “In order to do that, they want housing, they need housing and they need affordable quality housing…and so when we want to get those jobs out there, if you want people out there, you have to have decent housing and that's what this whole effort's about.”

Boyko said East River Electric is looking to support initial housing efforts in Chamberlain.

Four million dollars have been pledged to build multi-family apartment complexes and single-family homes.

SDN Communications CEO Mark Shlanta said housing opportunities are few and far between outside of bigger cities.

“Well people can find a moderate apartment in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Mitchell, Aberdeen—some of the larger communities—but as you go to some of the smaller communities, finding the prep, some of the modern amenities that come with newer housing, may not exist or may not exist in their price range…and we've seen it through the pandemic,” he said. “That kind of workforce can be in a lot of different places.”

Shlanta hopes the collaboration will motivate others to do the same towards rural development.

Contributions from each business goes to revolving loans through the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund which is administered by East River Electric.